Sean Kennedy is a doctoral student at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. The PSC is in the midst of negotiating a new contract with CUNY. Kennedy originally wrote and posted this letter in mid-May. It now has nearly 200 signatories.
I write as a union member and CUNY contingent faculty member to express my great dismay at your statement of May 9th praising Mayor De Blasio for his CUNY budget and singling out “full-time faculty and student support staff” as needing “investments” while entirely omitting mention of adjuncts and graduate student workers.
In addition to the questionable negotiating strategy of such mayoral sycophancy—and your bizarre contention that CUNY is the “solution” to “inequality,” when CUNY reproduces, and contributes to, the inequality of New York City at large—I don’t understand how you could ignore the needs of adjuncts and graduate student workers, who teach the vast majority of classes at CUNY and are the majority of union members and agency-fee payers. Furthermore, I don’t understand how full-time faculty need “investments” more than adjuncts and graduate student workers, who make a pittance compared to full-time faculty, work under worse conditions, and lack job security. What kind of message does this send at negotiating time?
Indeed, it seems to me that any “investments” in faculty the union wins from the city should go to adjuncts and graduate student workers and not to full-time faculty, given the extreme inequality between contingent faculty and full-time—inequality that has occurred in large part because of the priority full-time faculty have received by union leadership since the beginning of the Professional Staff Congress and which, quite evidently, continues under your leadership.
I wish I could say your out-of-touch statement is an aberration, but unfortunately it conforms to the sense so many of us adjuncts and graduate student workers at CUNY have about the union’s neglect of us and our issues. It’s certainly been clear to me in my tenure this academic year as an Adjunct Project coordinator, in which you and your leadership team have either ignored or outright stymied our efforts for greater union representation of adjuncts and graduate student workers and our issues.
Union leadership has been unable to respond to or move forward our simple request from December that adjuncts and graduate student workers have a choice of which chapter to affiliate with; our demands for the bargaining agenda were sat on by you, also since December, until a meeting with my colleagues on April 10th, and we’ve received no follow-up from you, including on your promise to include adjuncts and graduate student workers in the bargaining meetings; and our newly reconstituted Graduate Center chapter—an initiative the Adjunct Project proposed at its October 2013 organizing meeting—contains only two student workers on its slate of 12.
Meanwhile, the UFT deal, which will set a precedent for the rest of the city’s bargaining units, including our own, has been heavily critiqued by the Movement for Rank and File Educators caucus, which is waging a struggle against an entrenched, monopolistic party much like the New Caucus, which commands every (or nearly every) chapter of the PSC. At the moment, I feel more allegiance to MORE than I do to our union, given your De Blasio statement and inaction on the above issues.
I am hoping you will find this letter jarring enough to immediately redress these issues, at least the ones you have full control over: namely, the addition of our demands to the bargaining agenda, the inclusion of adjuncts and graduate student workers in the bargaining meetings, and the change in chapter-affiliation policy.
Furthermore, to enable the participation of CUNY adjuncts and graduate student workers in this summer’s COCAL conference, which is being organized by the PSC and taking place at CUNY’s John Jay College, I ask that the union cover the $250 registration fee for 30 adjuncts and graduate student workers at CUNY.
I look forward to your response, Barbara. If you don’t respond, however, I will not write again, as it shouldn’t be my job to convince you of the merits, ethics, and fairness of genuine union democracy and the concomitant representation of adjuncts and graduate student workers and our needs.
Sean M. Kennedy, Graduate Center, CUNY
If you are interested in adding your name to the letter, go here.